All things considered, it could be worse. Sure, it would be nice for the Steelers to head out to sunny San Diego having dispatched the Ravens back to their crab-infested hometown with a loss and sitting just a game back of the AFC North-leading Bengals, but kicking woes, fourth-down failures and a bevy of missed opportunities last Thursday were costly in defeat.
We’ve all had a week to stew over the things that went wrong, but that game – not to mention one-fourth of the season – is gone. Nothing the Steelers can do about the season’s first month now but learn from it and move forward.
With another new kicker, the return of second-year wideout Martavis Bryant from suspension and the increasing confidence of quarterback Michael Vick, the Steelers are evolving. Into what exactly, we won’t know for a few more weeks. With Ben Roethlisberger on the shelf for a few more weeks, the responsibility falls to Vick to notch a couple of victories and keep the Steelers in the hunt until Ben is healthy enough to get back on the field.
Vick’s game against Baltimore was ugly at times, but he did enough to win. In the past, that’s all we’ve asked of Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich or Bruce Gradkowski. Lean on your playmakers. Don’t take too many risks. Don’t make the big mistake that’s going to lose the game. Keep your team in the game. Vick did that a week ago.
Sure, it would have been great for the defense to do more to hold the lead. It would have been great for Antonio Brown to hold on to what looked like a sure touchdown. And it would have been really great for Josh Scobee to not kick himself out of town with two more excruciating misses.
To say the run defense was porous last week would be much too kind. The Steelers were gashed for 191 yards against Baltimore, including 150 by Justin Forsett. San’s Diego’s duo of rookie Melvin Gordon and diminutive sparkplug Danny Woodhead will be looking for similar success this week.
As for Brown’s key end-zone drop, it was a difficult chance. It could be argued that Steeler Nation has become accustomed to Brown making so many difficult catches that we’re spoiled by just how good he is.
As for the excuse of Brown not being used to the left-handed spin on the ball as the reason for the incompletion, I would have bought that if the play had happened when Vick entered the St. Louis game. But Brown and the rest of the receivers had a week of practice with Vick to acclimate to the reverse spin on the ball before taking the field against the Ravens. Brown dropped the ball, plain and simple. Now they’ve had two weeks of practice with Vick. Time to put that narrative to bed.
With Scobee’s stint in Pittsburgh turning out to be nothing short of terrible, Mike Tomlin settled on the untested Chris Boswell as the team’s fourth kicker in the past two months. While it’s more than mildly concerning that the undrafted, second-year player has no regular-season experience, it won’t take much for Boswell to improve on Scobee’s 60 percent success rate.
The bottom line heading into Monday night is that 3-2 is going to look a lot better than 2-3 for the Steelers. A loss puts them in a tie with the winner of this week’s clash between the Browns and Ravens, which would be another step backwards in the evolution of this team – and its hopes for making the playoffs in 2015.
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